It is a little disconcerting to try to write this piece, in response to a critique of an article published in what now seems like a different political lifetime. So much has changed, and so profoundly, that one wonders whether the debates of the pre-coronavirus-crisis era have any relevance to the present moment. With regard to immigration, of course, the answer to the question is yes; the unresolved issues remain as troublesome as ever, connected in some way to nearly every aspect of the coronavirus response.
The Trump administration’s first instincts in dealing with the pandemic were to address it through migration policy, focusing almost exclusively on migration bans from affected regions.1 Public health experts have expressed concerns that the chilling effect of immigration status on utilization of health care facilities will affect efforts to treat the sick or to track and manage the spread of the virus in communities with significant immigrant populations.2 The social impact of these effects is exacerbated by the overrepresentation of immigrant workers in service and production sectors essential to the basic functioning of society — including care work and food — which demonstrates immigrants’ importance to society, but also increases their likelihood of exposure to the virus. And because the question of immigration is, most fundamentally, about social and political membership, every nation-state’s effort at providing relief to people affected by the pandemic — either through the expansion of health care and employment leave benefits to the sick, or through financial assistance to those affected by the pandemic-induced economic downturn — has had to confront the question of immigrant eligibility.